Take Linux on the go with these optimised distros.

EasyPeasy

EasyPeasy

The best thing about netbook distros is their approach to the user interface. EasyPeasy builds on top of the Ubuntu Netbook Remix interface to help you get the most out of the limited physical resources your tiny machine can provide.

EasyPeasy is touted as a social operating system, so if you live to tweet, or want to keep up on the latest from Facebook and Flickr, this could be a handy addition to your arsenal.

It's also designed to keep power consumption low, so you won't constantly be running out of juice and thus start missing the latest news from your friends or those you follow.

To get hold of EasyPeasy, you'll need to transfer it on to a USB drive, which can easily be done using several tools, including Wubi, Unetbootin or MultiBoot. The distribution includes Picasa for organising images, Skype, and the Gwibber microblogging client.

Despite being tailor-made for netbooks, EasyPeasy also includes OpenOffice.org, and Evolution too, although both of these programs have been tweaked to perform well on Intel's Atom processors. There's Ubuntu One for online storage, and the distribution can play a wide range of media, including MP3s, AVIs and DVDs. It comes with Firefox and the Flash plugin as well. You can also pull in more apps using the included Synaptic package manager.

On a Lenovo Ideapad S10-3s, the distro worked flawlessly. Cheese worked with the built-in webcam, and the distro also detected the proprietary Broadcom wireless.

EasyPeasy relies on the standard Ubuntu installer in order to transfer itself onto the your machine. Make sure you partition the disk carefully, since most netbooks actually have a dedicated partition for recovering the default OS. If you need any help, head towards the EasyPeasy forums. There's also a lot of information to be found on the distro's wiki, including tips on how to save power and thus get the most out of your battery. We wouldn't hesitate to recommend this one.

MeeGo

MeeGo

You'd think the limited physical resources of a netbook wouldn't leave enough room for developers to innovate, but you'd be wrong. The MeeGo user interface is a continuation of the Moblin platform. It's slick and the distro is quick to get going.

App switching is pretty fast too, regardless of the number you have open. Apps in MeeGo are automatically minimised when you bring up the panel by dragging to the top of the screen or using the Windows key. You can customise the panel to add Gadgets and a Pasteboard. Except for a proprietary Broadcom wireless card, Meego found and set up all other hardware on our test netbook, including the Bluetooth radio and the built-in camera.

Before you update packages, check for system updates. Once the required updates have been installed, head to the Garage to install popular apps, such as GCompris, Marble, AbiWord, Thunderbird, Gimp and more. For yet more apps, head on over to Manage Apps.

Out of the box, MeeGo plays a host of media types, and includes the Flash plugin for Chromium. Besides the browser, there's Empathy for messaging, Gedit for text editing, a few games (including FrozenBubble), Evolution for email, and the Banshee media player.

Then there's the Status panel, which enables you to quickly update multiple web service accounts. Note that these are currently limited to Twitter and Last.fm, but we hope more are to come. The distro also helps you sync your calendar, contacts, tasks and emails, either via Bluetooth or by using one of the supported web services: Funabol, Memotoo or Mobical.

Support-wise, go online and you'll find a detailed, illustrated guide, as well as a wiki, forums, and mailing lists.

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First published in Linux Format Issue 140

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